United Methodist News has reported that 600 clergy and laity have filed a complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a United Methodist. Sessions belongs to a Mobile, Alabama UMC church and regularly attends a UMC church in Northern Virginia. Specifically, the charges accuse him of child abuse; immorality; racial discrimination and “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standard of doctrines” of The United Methodist Church due to his using Romans 13 to justify the policy.
The Reverend David Wright, a Pacific Northwest Conference elder and chaplain at the University of Puget Sound in Washington State is the organizer of the effort. Wright said the goal of the group is to prompt discussion between Sessions and his pastor and local conference. Wright said, “I would look upon his being taken out of the denomination or leaving as a tragedy. That’s not what I would want from this.”
This followed a resolution approved on June 9 by the Rio Texas Conference requesting the Justice Department “immediately discontinue separating children from their families due to the ‘zero tolerance’ policy.” The resolution described the separations as “child abuse, harassment and discrimination” and called them a violation of international law. The Rio Texas Conference, the resolution noted, has within its borders some of the detention centers used by authorities in carrying out the tough enforcement policy.
“The majority of these families are fleeing violence and seeking asylum in the U.S.”, said Rob Rutland-Brown, top executive for National Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist immigration ministry. “As a father, I cannot imagine the anguish parents must feel at having their child forcibly taken from them, with no knowledge of where they are being taken and no reunion in sight,” Rutland-Brown said.
The United Methodist Council of Bishops joined with other faith leaders in asking the U.S. government to stop separating immigrant families. “Tearing children away from parents who have made a dangerous journey to provide a safe and sufficient life for them is unnecessarily cruel and detrimental to the well-being of parents and children,” the statement emphasizes.
United Methodist Women have signed on to the “Women of Faith Cry Out to Keep Families Together” letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen calling for an end to this practice. “We know the harm we are doing to children with this policy, which makes this deliberate separating of children from their parents for the intent of punishing the family particularly vile. This must stop now,” in a statement from United Methodist Women. “We call on the U.S. Justice Department to do right by the immigrant children on our borders — surely among the weakest and most vulnerable among us — and immediately end the policy of separating children from their families.”
The United Methodist Board of Church and Society urges people to speak out by calling their members of Congress, writing an op-ed piece or connecting with local immigrant advocacy and support networks. Members of the community can also reach out to immigrants on the front lines of these traumas, said the Rev. Jeania Ree V. Moore, director of civil and human rights, United Methodist Board of Church and Society.
Former First Lady, Laura Bush, a United Methodist, said the policy…”breaks my heart.” Other critics of the policy include The Clergy Letter Project, Roman Catholic bishops, the Rev. Franklin Graham and many others.